By Steven Marowski
While doing strength and conditioning activities a couple of weeks ago, Victor Martinez tore the meniscus in his left knee. Martinez had surgery on Tuesday, February 10 to repair the torn cartilage.
Matt Mowery, the Tigers beat writer for the Oakland Press, offered comments to the Pleiad about the current situation with Martinez:
“If they can just trim the meniscus, it’ll likely be a shorter rehab, and he might only miss a week or so of the start of the season,” Mowery said. “If more repair is required, it could be quite a bit longer. That unknown is why the Tigers won’t put a timetable on his return until they know exactly what they’re dealing with.”
The average meniscus tears generally heal within 6-8 weeks after surgery, but some athletes are more prone to a quicker or lengthier recovery. Martinez’s is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, which means he is going to miss spring training and possibly opening day. The meniscus tear that was suffered by Martinez was on the same leg in which he suffered a torn ACL ligament in 2012. It’s expected that the Tigers training staff will take extra precautions on the left knee of Martinez.
“I think there will always be some residual risk, given Martinez’s age, and the fact that he’s now had multiple surgeries on the same knee,” Mowery said. “You just don’t know how much it’ll hurt him. If he does go the quicker route, and returns to the Tigers within a few weeks, there’s a potential that he’ll be dealing with an arthritic knee for the remainder of the contract. From everything I’ve read/heard, if they repair the meniscus, that will lessen the likelihood of that arthritic situation.”
Martinez understands his role on the team as the designated hitter and occasional first-baseman or catcher, and he’s been training for those roles for the entire 2015 offseason. Finishing second in the MVP voting, Martinez had a career year for the Tigers in 2014 — he set a new career high for home runs (36) and compiled a .336 batting average, the second highest of his career. He also became the fourth player in Major League history to compile a .300 batting average, have 30 or more homeruns, and 45 or fewer strikeouts at or above the age of 35, along with Barry Bonds, Joe Dimaggio, and Ted Williams.
In terms of his value to the team, it’s surely one that cannot be replicated, but it is expected that Martinez will not miss much of the regular season. Catherine Slonksnis, a writer for blessyouboys.com, explains why the Tigers won’t suffer if Martinez is absent from the lineup:
“Martinez had nearly the entire offseason to prepare for 2015 before this injury though, and I don’t believe that his return to the lineup will be difficult or that his offensive contribution to the team will suffer regardless of the recovery timetable,” Slonksnis said.
Looking back at the 2015 offseason, the Tigers have made some good improvements to the team. ESPN analyst Jim Bowden gave the Tigers a “B” for their offseason, which was the second-highest grade for a team in the American League Central division, behind the Chicago White Sox.
“Offensively, they picked up Yoenis Cespedes, who was the key to replacing Torii Hunter in the lineup and a powerful bat that was going to be difficult to replace,” Slonksnis said. “They also have several players no longer on the disabled list, which should help on the field and the mound. Jose Iglesias is returning from missing the 2014 season due to bilateral shin fractures, but he’s one of the best shortstops in baseball, and his presence alone will help protect Nick Castellanos’ limited range at third base.”
It seemed as though every Tigers fan criticized the way the bullpen was addressed, but the trades for Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon, as well as Martinez’s extension, took the spotlight off of the bullpen.
The Tigers feel that closer Joe Nathan will be the same guy that they thought he was going to be when they signed him in the 2013 offseason. Reliever Joakim Soria had a rough year last year, but the Tigers are optimistic that he will bounce back and form a dangerous duo with Nathan.
“Nathan is the closer, but if he can’t do the job I doubt the Tigers will be as patient with him this year as they were last season. At this point, I think it’s the right move to make,” Slonksnis said. “He ended the 2014 season strong and he deserves a chance to prove last year was a fluke. Soria is the set-up man and that’s where he should have been at the end of the season when Joba Chamberlain became overworked and couldn’t hold up down the stretch.”
Another key to the Tigers bullpen is Bruce Rondon, a young reliever who is just coming off of Tommy John surgery. The Tigers front office see Rondon and his 100+ mph fastball being a key component in the success of the team this year, as long as he stays healthy. If not, the Tigers went out and got a number of younger pitchers who they can have ready at any time, such as Josh Zeid and Alex Wilson, to replace Rondon if he does not work out.
“Rondon, it’s going to be tricky because they’re going to need to treat him with kid gloves, being less than a year removed from surgery and all. The Tigers are going to need backups in the event he suffers a setback or doesn’t live up to expectations,” Slonksnis said.
Photo via zimbio.com.